When -- when -- I remember to check my phone messages, this is what I do.
I get out my bloc-notes. I get a pen. I sit down. I brace myself mentally. I dial 3103. The familiar friendly-but-no-nonsense female voice chimes mechanically:
"Bonjour. Vous avez .. Deux .. nouveaux messages. Appel du.. zero un quatrevingtquinze..."
Uh oh -- how much is that? My mind races as I do the mental math and try to listen to the next numbers. I scribble 01 85, cross out 85, write 95.
I write down 14 because that's all I heard. Or was it 14, then 79, then 50?
How can it be that learning numbers in French was the very first lesson way back in French I umpteen light years ago, but now conjuring them up is the very last skill to come automatically? Transcribing any number up to 69, I'm golden. When I have to start the add-ons, the compound numbers, like sixty-twelve or four-twenties-eighteen, I'm sunk unless there is that extra split second to absorb it. Nary a nanosecond of mercy in between the chiffres when you listen to France Telecom voicemail.
Don't even get me started about trying to understand business people's gurgling voice messages on my portable (cell phone). I don't even try. A rushing river of numbers that I try to retain while walking down the street? Forget it.
The solution? Defeated, I hit the trusty save button, "Pour conserver votre message, appuyer sur 2."
Deux. A nice easy number. Got that.
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